You never want to find yourself hanging over a toilet hours after you buy a house… but that is where I found myself a little over a year ago, so sick to my stomach that it literally was making me ill. We had just closed on a home… a home that in so many ways checked the boxes on our must have list. But as I went into that day, there was a deep unsettledness in me. But what do you do with that on the day of closing?! There seemed no way out. So I went through the closing, smiling all the way, until it was over and then I felt it… that gut wrenching feeling that I had just made one of the worst mistakes of my life.
There were good reasons we decided on the home we did, but there were some major compromises I made in agreeing to the purchase this home. And I have realized, the things I compromised on mattered more to me than the things I gained in the transaction. Unfortunately there is no “satisfaction guaranteed” when you buy a home. You can’t go back and say “Oops, nevermind!” And I found myself sick, physically and emotionally, over the decision I had made, almost immediately.
I have struggled for a year, and continue to struggle with regret, with wanting to go back and do it differently. But regret is not a place to live. It is a waste land that will leave you stuck, staring at ruins. So how do you move on? How do you live into a bad decision in a way that doesn’t leave you regretting what you did in the past and keeps you moving toward a place of trust and hope in what God is doing, even in your mess ups? Here are 4 things I am learning about how to live into a bad decision…
1. Don’t Live into the Bad Decision Alone
I actually sunk into a pretty deep depression after moving. Once the moving dust settled and reality hit, once I began waking up daily in this house that felt like was the worst mistake of my life, the profound nature of the loss hit me. I couldn’t believe I had gotten myself into this place and I felt like a complete idiot. I mean, who buys a house they don’t feel good about? But, as I struggled to get up each day and function, I realized I need to talk about it.
I remember the evening I sat down with my husband, 2 weeks out from the move, and said to him, “I feel like I just made the worst mistake of my life.” I poured my heart out to him. I was so worried about how he would receive this, I mean, we made this decision together. It wasn’t just me, it was both of us. But the truth is, this house was not right for me, and I was struggling to live into it. Thankfully, my husband was a huge support, being a place I could just be real. I know he has become tired at times hearing me share the same sorrow, process the same stuff over and over (I am a bit of a dweller and ruminate over things far too long, and he is human after all, and a guy), but he has for the most part listened, cared and been present in very helpful ways. Together, we are learning how to live into this house, one I feel is a mistake, but it is a mistake I don’t feel alone in.
I also have close friends I was able to be real with, who listened to me, who were a text away when I was struggling and just needed someone to know. Their prayers and encouragement have carried me through. I have at times felt like my grief and struggle has been a burden to them, though that is probably more me than them. But having a place, friendships, where I didn’t have to pretend everything was okay, has been a huge part of learning to cope and live into my bad decision.
I have realized though, after a year of struggle, a year of sharing with my husband and friends where I am at, and of still struggling to move through the grief, that more might be needed and am moving toward finding a counselor who can help me move through the regret and sense of loss.
Regardless of what form your place of being real with someone takes, don’t try to live into your bad decision alone! The truth of Ecclesiastes 3:9-10 stands whether it is something unexpected in life that knocks you down or a decision you make that slams you to the floor, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
2. Don’t Diminish Your Hard
It is common when we are struggling with something, to compare our hard with someone else’s hard and say to ourselves, “Well, it is not that bad. I mean look at what so and so is struggling with.” And while that may be true, believe me, I have felt very petty a lot of the time that I am struggling at all with our home… I mean I have a home for goodness sakes… a warm place to sleep, a roof over our heads. And on top of that, it is a really nice home. And so it is easy for me to go to the place of, “Just get over it Janise, I mean really, in the grand scheme of what can happen in life, of what others are struggling with, you really have no reason to be struggling so much.” As I sat in spiritual direction with my director I said this very thing to her, “I feel like I shouldn’t be struggling so much with this.” Her Spirit-led response: “Take the ‘shouldn’t’ out. You are struggling with this. It is where you are.”
Here’s the thing: God meets us where we are, not where we think we should be.
That is not to say it is not important to try and keep things in perspective, to work toward gratitude and thankfulness (because there is goodness all around, even in the hard), but it is also important to be present to your own sense of loss, to what feels hard right now. Because the truth is, whether your loss, your hard, feels big or small in the grand scheme of life, it reveals a deeper truth about you. Those places of grief in your life, reveals something about who you are, what you value, what makes you, you.
Until you really sit with what feels like loss in your life, you cannot get to the deeper places of longing, hopes, needs that underlie this loss. But in staying with the loss, in not diminishing your hard, you learn more about your true self, the self God is trying to reveal to you. Only then can you find healing in the deeper places of yourself. And it is in experiencing this deeper healing that we then can live out of a truer sense of self that God longs for us to live into.
3. Remember You are Human
One of the biggest struggles I have had in this whole “mistake” is wondering how I could have missed it?! It is so clear as I look back on my journals from the month before our move that I was feeling unsettled with the choice of this home. Why did I go through with it? I have been especially hard on myself because I believe discernment and wisdom is a gift God has given me. I use it in my spiritual direction with others. How could I have missed this?!
I voiced this very statement to my spiritual director recently, “How could I have missed this?” Her response: “You’re human.” Right. I am human. And as much as I might feel I have gifts of wisdom and discernment, I missed it. I didn’t get this one right. I guess I felt it was okay to make little mess ups, but such a life impacting one?! No way!
One of my biggest struggles through this experience, is the way it has made me question my places of giftedness… my ability to discern, to seek wisdom, to hear the voice of God. My director, in helping me explore this struggle said to me, “Can you own the fact that you are not as discerning as you thought you were? Even you can miss something.” The only way to live with and move through a bad decision is to see our falability, to accept we don’t always get it right. I have had to face the truth that I am human, and I mess up, I miss things. I know, surprising that this is a truth I needed to embrace! But the thing I have realized is I would allow myself to mess up in small ways, but not in big ways. What I am learning to accept is that I can mess up in big ways too, even in areas of my giftedness. And in learning to accept this I am learning to be gentle with myself. I am learning to offer myself grace, the grace to miss something, and to be okay with that.
When we screw up, make a bad decision, feel like we have made a huge mistake, it can be so easy to go down the path of self-condemnation and self-contempt, beating ourselves up over it. Wondering how we could have mess up, how we could have missed it, how we could have been so wrong? What if the answer to, “What was wrong with me?” is: I’m human. We won’t get every decision in life right. So be gentle with yourself when you do mess up. Remember you are human.
4. God is Greater than Your Mistakes
Around the one year anniversary of our move, I sunk back into a dark place. Grief washed over me hard and strong. I wrote in my journal one morning, the week of the anniversary of our move, “How could I have made such a mistaken trade? It haunts me, God. I can’t seem to come up from it. It was a year ago this week… perhaps I am feeling the weight of the anniversary of the worst mistake of my life, our move, the day I undid myself.”
The verse I was lead to that morning was Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
It was as if God was saying, “Look Janise, I know you think you screwed up, but I am always greater than your mistakes.”
It is God’s purpose for our lives that will stand, that will push through, regardless of what we do or screw up or even the plans that we map out for our lives. When you feel you have veered off the right path, God is not stumped by this. God isn’t throwing up his hands, saying, “Well now what do I do?!”
At a deeper level God is inviting you to trust him with all things, even your mistakes.
No matter what you do in life, plans well made or mess ups big time, God and his plans are always greater!
So live into your mistake, your bad decision, your mess up, knowing that God is doing something more with it than you can see right now.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.